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Chapter 497: Going Home

    Chapter 497: Going Home

    "The Clairvoyant? Him again?" Lan Jue could hear his brother sigh on the other end of the line.

    "There's still about a month before we're supposed to meet the Clairvoyant, like we agreed. You'll be back around the same time. Remember to remind A-Cheng and A-Li. When you come back make sure you bury any hatchets that have been dug up."

    "Yeah, I know. Brother, I've decided to leave tomorrow and meet with him. Honestly, though, I'm afraid I lack the nerve." Lan Jue's sudden revelation come out of nowhere.

    Lan Qing thought for a moment. "What if you brought that girl with you?"

    Lan Jue hesitated. "Nah, I guess I'll just go myself." He'd originally wanted to bring her, but with things as they were now he wasn't sure. If he was going to trouble the old man with a new person, he had to make sure they were close enough to stand it. Qianlin's uncertainty put him on unsure footing, too.

    "Tell him I asked about him," Lan Qing said.

    "Sure thing."

    He hung up with him brother, and immediately dialed in Chu Cheng's number. Things were strained, he needed to keep in touch.

    "You get back?" Chu Cheng's flippant voice answered.

    "Yeah, just got back. You can stop worrying." Lan Jue said with a smirk.

    Chu Cheng was quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry. Can I help?"

    Lan Jue chuckled. "We're brothers, don't worry about it. You think I don't see what you're all about? Now how are things on your end?"

    "His Majesty the Terminator is in a sour mood," Chu Cheng replied. "He's having a hard time swaying the Poseidon Group. They have incredible influence, more than you might think. Hua Li's left, back to Europa I think. Oh, and be careful about these bastards from the Pontiff's Citadel. The Pontiff showing up was a pretty brazen move against you guys."

    Lan Jue nodded. "I know. You be careful, too. Don't go around corrupting all the women."

    He heard Chu Cheng sniff. "Nah, those days are done. I've found my one true love. I'm preparing to go to Europa too and find Lina. This time she'll know I'm serious."

    Lan Jue stared at his communicator helplessly. "You're definitely the kind of guy who changes hats half a dozen times a day. I was curious how long you'd be serious about this one."

    "Yeah I get it, I get it. Hang up the damn phone. I'll see you in a month."

    After conversing with Chu Cheng, it was time to get in touch with Hua Li. Lan Jue dialed in yet another number. Communications point to point like this were difficult on interstellar journeys, unless the ship was specially equipped with high-tech coms units. Hua Li may have still been in transit, but Lan Jue didn't doubt the financial capital of the Poseidon Group, or the quality of their ships.

    Tomorrow, he would be going home!

    He heaved a sigh, trying to calm his beating heart 1. He sat with his arms crossed against his chest, and an uncertain look in his eye.

    The next day, the sunlight peeked timidly over the horizon, painting the horizon with golden light.

    The hem of Qianlin's white dress rippled in the gentle wind as she made her way down the Avenue. In her arms was clutched a weighty black box. She looked torn, and made her way slowly along the flagstone path.

    Her eyes were surrounded by rings of black, like she hadn't slept well. In truth, she'd spent the night going over what was to come, wracking her brain to prepare herself.

    The humming sign for Zeus' Jewelry Shop loomed before her. She could see its garish blue wall and golden lightning bolt. The muscles along her cheek stood out as she set her jaw, and walked in toward the store with determined steps.

    Some things get caught in the heart, and you can never run away from them. These were the things you had to face, no matter what. Rather than let it ruin their relationship, it was time to face it head on.

    "Ding ding!" The sweet chimes of the doorbell filled the shop. Inside, Xiuxiu and Ke'er both swung their eyes toward the door.

    "Welcome." Ke'er's pretty face lit up with a smile, and she walked around the counter to greet Qianlin. However, she kept a respectful distance.

    Qianlin nodded her greeting and returned her smile. "Hello. I'm looking for Lan Jue, is he in?"

    Ke'er picked out her distracted and uncertain mood right away. Xiuxiu walked over and stood by her coworker's side. "I'm sorry, Miss Zhou. The boss isn't here right now."

    Qianlin blinked, surprised by the news, but also a little relieved. "He isn't here? Where'd he go? When will he be back?"

    Xiuxiu explained. "He went on a trip, left early in the morning. I believe he left for another planet, we're not even sure where. We're just employees, we can't ask so many questions."

    Left? He left? Another planet?

    Qianlin stood there, silent, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She bit her lip to try and fight the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She nodded. "Thank you."

    Ke'er watched her push open the door and leave. She looked toward Xiuxiu. "She looks like something isn't right! Do you think the boss' quick departure has something to do with her?"

    Xiuxiu shook her head. "I'm not sure. But we can't tell her what the boss is up to." The warm, gentle eyes of Xiuxiu were now surprisingly cold.

    ζ

    As Qianlin left the shop, she felt a sudden wave of exhaustion come over her. She leaned against the building's façade to help keep her on her feet.

    "He's still angry with me. He probably left to meet Jue Di. Without me." Of course she knew what his destination was. She had been there when he got the call.

    She tried to contact him through the Soulcaller gem, but there was no answer. He wasn't on Skyfire.

    Of course! Turning him down the way I did, how could he not be upset? Her doll-like faced scrunched in to a bitter frown. She shut her eyes, and at last the tears began to carve their paths down her porcelain cheeks.

    After a little while, she managed to ger herself under control. She pushed off the wall, and started heading back the way she came.

    ζ

    Lan Jue had run off early in the morning. Even he felt a little like it was an escape. He sat quietly in Zeus-2 as it quietly raced through the cosmos. The marvelous expanse of the universe spread out before him, so beautiful that sometimes he forgot to breathe.

    What was it she wanted to tell me? Lan Jue was piloting the craft by himself, but the onboard computers did most of the work. He had plenty of time to think.

    He didn't know why, but Lan Jue was a little afraid of what Qianlin had to say. He'd left early to avoid having to find out.

    Maybe being apart for a little while was for the best. Both of them needed some time, and some peace. Time to think was never bad.

    Zeus-2 was a copy of Zeus-1, at least before the upgrades. Aside from the Blinding Stone, the Bookworm had also taken a crack at the ship and upgraded it tremendously. He left Lan Jue with the procedure to do the same with the other ships. However, he hadn't been in a rush to upgrade. As it stood though, Zeus-2 was still capable of reaching light speed.

    Piloting a ship on your own was different. Out in the emptiness of space, the loneliness, everything seemed much quieter. Man couldn't help but slip in to contemplation when out here along among the stars.

    Lan Jue sat at the controls, the sound of his fingers hitting the keys filling the cockpit. Ship components and strings of data outputs flashed across the screens.

    Now that he had the time, he was doing things he had been putting off for a while. At present he was designing the blueprints for Thor's next upgrade. No one knew Thor better than Lan Jue, and he knew his old war buddy needed some polishing. He had the Phylactery stone, and several more power gems that needed to be swapped out. Now his shop was doing well, and the ladies had already built up their suits. He was the last straggler.

    First the designs had to be planned, then materials could be collected and installed. Assembly much easier than the upgrade process. Planning involved a great deal of science that the Bookworm and Keeper would be well equipped to deal with, but doing it himself was the only way to ensure perfection.

    As Lan Jue lost himself in concentration, time flew by like the stars outside the window. Before he knew it, two days had passed.

    "Beeep! Beeep! Beeeep! Beeeep!" The harsh screech of an alarm woke Lan Jue from his thoughts. His head shot up from the designs to search the screen for answers. What he saw immediately darkened his expression. His pupils contracted to small dark points.

    The main screen showed a purple light, racing toward him at incredible speed. The radar had a solid lock.

    "Approach, and identify the object. Arm the main cannon!" Lan Jue's low voice was almost a growl. He could tell by its trajectory that this unknown arrival was headed his way.

    Zeus-2 slowed and approached the unidentified object. Its weapons hummed as they charged, but for now he just remained vigilant.

    "Attempts to hail the unidentified craft have met with silence. Radar scans indicate life." The computer's digitized voice delivered the report. The image on the main screen was enhanced and enlarged.

    It was exactly what he expected; one of the purple alien invaders. It looked like an enormous, elongated date pit with purple light expelled from its tail. The creature was moving incredibly fast.

    But as Lan Jue watched, he noticed something different about how this one moved. It wasn't maintaining a constant speed, and instead would sometimes blast forward, then slow time. It looked like it was trying to conserve energy. Sporadic bursts of purple light shot out from its tail, and would subsequently send it barreling ahead.

    "The main cannon is ready to fire." The screens confirmed the computer's report.

    Lan Jue switched to manual control. The ship aligned itself with the creature as the main battery slowly pulled out of its housing. They were coming at each other at break-neck speed, and the closer they got the better read the radar was able to get. Now he could tell that the beast was at least three times bigger than Zeus-2.

    Lan Jue narrowed his eyes, and hit the fire button. A beam of harsh sapphire light exploded from the ship's main cannon, right for the encroaching monster.

    1. In Chinese medicine, sighing like this is seen as an attempt to move stagnated qi in the chest, which has stopped due to dysfunction of the Liver meridian's movement function. Remember that they are talking about the function of the meridian with the name Liver, not the actual organ itself. I'll write out a post detailing the functions of the meridian systems at some point, as an extension to meridian theory.
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